The Distance Manager: A Hands on Guide to Managing off-Site Employees and Virtual Teams

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Overview

Global business demands and new technologies have created a virtual workplace for many companies, with employees and teams routinely collaborating from distant geographical locations on the road, from home, at client sites—even on the other side of the globe. The Distance Manager provides practical information and tools to help managers bridge the communication gaps created by geographical separation, and get peak performance from employees they rarely see.

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Overview

Global business demands and new technologies have created a virtual workplace for many companies, with employees and teams routinely collaborating from distant geographical locations on the road, from home, at client sites—even on the other side of the globe. The Distance Manager provides practical information and tools to help managers bridge the communication gaps created by geographical separation, and get peak performance from employees they rarely see.

This handbook is perfect for sales managers, project team leaders, senior managers, and anyone who manages people at more than one location. Key topics include:

• Using e-mail, teleconferencing, and videoconferencing for maximum effectiveness

• Mastering the people skills required to manage from a distance

• Virtual team building, and strategies for managing multiple locations

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071360654
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/22/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 252
  • Sales rank: 336,487
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Kimball Fisher and Mareen Fisher are co-founders of The Fisher Group, Inc. and have worked with many Fortune 100 companies to implement high- performance management systems. They have consulted to clients in North America, Western Europe, Asia and Africa with companies such as Amoco, Apple Computers, Chevron, Corning, Delphi/Delco, Hewlett-Packard, Monsanto, Motorola, NBC, PepsiCo, Proctor and Gamble, The Port of Seattle, Shell, and Weyerhaeuser. The Fishers have trained thousands of managers. They are widely published and are popular speakers on teams, leadership and organization design. Kimball. Fisher is author of Leading Self-Directed Work Teams and co-author of Tips for Teams.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Seven Competencies of an Effective Distance Manager

But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They mill all say, "We did this ourselves. "

Lao-tzu
About 550 B.C.


DOUG LOEWE is the European marketing manager for CompuServe, a half-billion-dollar Internet company. But he isn't located in London or Munich, where his sales and service teams are. He lives 5000 miles away, in New York City. With the aid of a networkcapable laptop computer and a cell phone, he manages a workforce that lives on a different continent. He receives and responds to about 50 e-mails a day. That technology helps, but it's not enough to really lead his team. So, he travels frequently to spend real time with them. Rather than spending all of his time in management meetings when he is on the road, Loewe tries to get out to see customers with his sales and service team members. He plans his schedule three months in advance, so that salespeople can arrange to include him on sales calls. This face-to-face time is essential to provide appropriate coaching and offer real support to the field. But he has to use other methods and tools to supplement the personal interaction.

How can Loewe manage from a distance? Not by traditional supervisory methods. He has neither the time nor the opportunity to direct the day-to-day tasks of a widely dispersed workforce like an on-site manager could. Nor does he think that's the best way to manage. His salespeople need to be self-supervising. "The system will fail if the team is made up of people who need constant prodding to get the work done," he says. Thesalespeople who don't fit in this arrangement are the ones who "aren't used to doing things that they're not told to do." They have to be self-starters, Loewe says. If you happen to be distance managing people who aren't self-starters, you have a problem. (There are, however, coaching techniques that you can use to improve the performance of non-self-starters-even from a distance; we'll tell you how in Chapter 5, "The Distance Coach: Getting Peak Performance.")

If Loewe's role as a distance manager isn't to prod workers into action, what is it? One answer is to teach them how to work together to form a more effective team. For example, he tells the story of how one client with offices in London, England, Munich, Germany, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, was working with multiple salespeople from his company. But because each salesperson was trying to get the credit for closing the deal, they weren't sharing information with each other about the rapidly changing client situation. Account progress ground to a halt until Loewe had the salespeople talk to each other. When they realized why they needed to collaborate (no one gets credit for a sale that is never made), e-mails began to fly back and forth until the account surged forward and a number of deals were closed. "The salespeople must recognize the value of teamwork so they will do it on their own," he concludes?

Effective distance leaders are competent leading from afar. They create communication networks to provide a virtual presence with those they lead and (as illustrated in this short example) to help team members find both the means and the motivation to hook up with each other as well. Distance leaders-like sales managers, product development managers, project leaders, executives, or anyone else who seldom sees those he or she is charged to lead-use their valuable face-to-face time with others for the highest-leverage activities. Not the least of these activities is teaching others how to manage themselves when the leader isn't present. This is not a new idea. Lao-tzu, the great Taoist philosopher, said that the leader's role is ultimately to help people learn to lead themselves. This principle is the foundation of success for every distance manager.

Distance Managers Aren't Supervisors

How do you watch over someone you can't see? Even if the traditional role of supervision is desirable, it just isn't practical when the people to be supervised are located all over the map. This is often a difficult lesson that managers must learn as they progress up the corporate ladder. 'Confirms Roger Herman, CEO of the Herman Group, "Managing ;someone you can't see is considerably different than walking around -the cubicle wall to see if they're there at eight in the morning."'

The Boundary Manager

We have written extensively about the role of leaders in empowered organizations. Please allow us a brief summary of our findings as they ply to the distance manager. One of the best ways to describe the tall role of the distance manager is as a boundary manager. As you can in Figure 1.1, the large circle in this figure represents the team boundary. The boundary is simply the make-believe line that differentiates the team from the environment surrounding it. The distance leader pages that boundary. What does that mean? Let's review a little organization theory to establish a common point of reference, and then we answer that question.

Teams Are Open Systems

Figure 1.2 adds some things to the picture of the team we looked at earlier. Team members must take inputs (like raw materials or information) of some sort and transform them into desirable outputs (like products or services). A special project team, for example, may be responsible for turning a problem (input) into a solution (output). A new-product development team turns ideas (input) into designs (output). A sales team turns customer interest (input) into orders (output). To do these things the teams add value to the inputs (change, assemble, organize, edit, etc.). This is called the transformation or throughput part of the operation. Figure 1.3 shows that outside the organization boundary is the environment (customers, competitors, other teams, etc.). Social scientists call this way of looking at organizations open systems theory...

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Table of Contents

Distance Managing: The Foundation Principles.

The Seven Competencies of an Effective Distance Manager.

Five Things The Cripple the Effectiveness of the Distance Manager.

What Employees Want from a Distance Manager.

Six Types of Virtual Teams.
Stay Connected and Coordinated: The Dos and Don'ts.

The Distance Coach: Getting Peak Performance.

Distance Team Building: Building Skills in Remote Sites.

Distance Training: Building Skills in Remote Sites.

Bulding Trust from a Distance.

Overcoming the Isolation of the Satellite Office.

Managing Employees Who Work at Home.

Leading People Who Don't Report to You.

The Necessity of Face-to-Face Meetings.

Celebrating from a Distance.
The Distance Technology Handbook.

Setting Up a Virtual Office: The BasicHardware and Communications Lines People Need.

How to Use the Telephone.

The Distance Manager's Guide to Efficient Teleconferences.

Videoconferencing: Technology and Table Manners.

Managing by E-mail - Without Letting It Take over Your Life.

Using Web Tools: Effective Shared Workplaces and Files.

Web Conferencing: Working with Whiteboards and Web Meetings.
The Distance Manager in Action.

The Distance Sales Manager at Xerox.

The Distance Project Manager at International Paper.

The Distance Product Development Manager at Hewlett-Packard.

The Distance Senior Manager at Weyerhaeuser.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2001

    Highly Recommended!

    Kimball Fisher and Mareen Duncan Fisher document the special skills needed for the new but increasingly common task of managing far-flung work groups. The approaches that they examine are becoming increasingly essential for all managers. Although they explore relevant technologies carefully, their human relations advice is probably more important. The Fishers emphasize the interpersonal and leadership skills that a manager needs to head a virtual team. If you read this book cover to cover, it can seem repetitive, since many of the rules and tips offered in one area overlap with those in other areas. However, the book is designed to allow you to review specific management challenges and technologies, and to ignore areas that are irrelevant to your situation. We at getAbstract.com recommend this clear, practical work to anyone who leads virtual teams and to the telecommuters and freelance workers who report to them.

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